Wednesday, 7 July 2010

451 EELS, The Webb Brothers, Bristol Colston Hall, Saturday 15 July 2000

Back on the gig trail finally, after 3 gigs postponed to allow for my convalescence from an emergency appendectomy. Rachel borrowed her parents' car for transport, and we trotted down the M4, stopping for pasties, and parking behind the Colston Hall in good time for the Webb Brothers. These US West Coast tunesmiths arrived at 8, all in white, and, ably backed by a fine and sympathetic band, they played a cool and relaxing set. Sons of 60's psychedelia musician Jimmy Webb, they've inherited the old man's talent for a good laid-back tune. A considerably better set than their Reading Festival performance last year, with the final number, the title track of new CD "Maroon", a highlight. They left me thinking they're a band with the potential to produce a truly great album, if they'd only cut loose with the harmonies a bit more. Let's wait and see...

Eels arrived at 9, with the set laid out in much the same way as their April Dominion show (gig 432); drum and horn section riser, a collection of instruments for Lisa Germano (again a guest) to play, and a conspicuously stage-left battered old piano. When the band emerged - a nun and a sultan on horns this time, with drummer Butch dressed as a Hawaiian hula-girl (!) - they again played the showband hits medley, before mainman E emerged, led on by a bouncer and playing the blind man! Eels again were excellent. E's touching, haunting balladry, intensely personal yet instantly recognisable, was much to the fore, but the mood swung entertainingly from "wallow" to "fun" (viz the jauntily sing-along "I Love Birds"). "Novocaine For The Soul" was this time portrayed as a space-opera opus; when will they ever play that one straight? A stunning "Susan's House", with Lisa Germano singing the chorus line, closed the set.

That wasn't it, though! "I've just been informed that it's Saturday night, and I want to apologise as we've been playing you a Tuesday night set," joked E, before dragging a couple of audience members onstage, having a mock argument with Butch, then launching into ridiculously jolly, almost Fountains Of Wayne-like single "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues". A stretched encore brought the running time to 1 hour 40 minutes which raced past, despite E's reputation for songs of harrowing desolation. This, once again, was Entertainment with a capital E. Goddamn right!

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